Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning fever intensifies with every round

If you haven't seen the blue beards and paddle noisemakers yet, get ready. Lightning playoff fever is catching on.

Call it a long time coming or a deserved case of deja vu, fans are finally joining the march toward the Stanley Cup.

"This town is definitely going Lightning crazy,'' said Ty Alday, downing his last beer before heading into Game 3 against the Washington Capitals. "Hopefully, they'll win it again this year.''

Few have forgotten the Lightning's first and only Cup title in 2004. At the Luxury Box bar, employees sport T-shirts saying: "Get Stanley 'cause Lord knows, he could use another tan!''

The bar across from the St. Pete Times Forum opened in October, right after the hockey season began. The timing couldn't have been better. The Lightning haven't reached the third round of the playoffs since its championship win — back when the bar was a Beef 'O' Brady's.

"Business is good. The electricity is amazing,'' said Crystal Davis, who owns the Luxury Box with her husband, Stephen.

Down the street, fans pack Hattrick's — Tampa's unofficial hockey bar — for every game. As the Bolts advance, the crowd multiplies.

"Sales are better this time around, maybe because more people know about us,'' said David Mangione, general manager and partner in Hattrick's, which opened 14 years ago. "Nothing compares to winning the Stanley Cup, but it's very similar. Everybody's really excited.''

Fans seem more devoted than seven years ago, he said, when the team was relatively new and fans still embraced old allegiances.

"You see very few of the opposing teams' jerseys, which is nice,'' Mangione said.

Despite the growing excitement, it still has a ways to go. Scalpers had wads of tickets left for this week's home games. National sales of Lightning jerseys, caps and other merchandise rank 17th in the league so far this year, compared with second after the 2004 Cup win. In the past month, since the playoffs began, sales inched to 16th, according to market tracker SportsONESource. By comparison, the Lightning's playoff competitors, the Capitals and Penguins, rank second and fourth for the year.

Dump some of the blame on the economy. Back in 2004, the housing market ran on all cylinders and more people went to work every day. Fans had extra cash to spend on fun stuff like sporting events.

Fast forward to today. The Bucs can't sell enough tickets to avoid a blackout, and the Rays grumble about low attendance. Two popular bars near the arena, Newk's and the Outpost, have closed. Still, sales of Lightning jerseys and caps have surged at Bucs & Bulls Heaven in Tampa.

"We've noticed a big upturn since they entered the playoffs,'' said owner Jeffrey Neil Fox. "Community pride sets in, and people want to root for the hometown team.''

Longtime fan Chris Cona said people might not have money they once did, but they still have the desire to get the Cup back to Tampa.

"I think the intensity is just as high, but no one wants to jinx it,'' he said. "But, I gotta say, this feels very similar. We've got a hot goalie."

Lightning fever intensifies with every round 05/05/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 5, 2011 4:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Chris Archer's primary problem Sunday, as in much of September, was a lack of slider command. When he can't throw it where he wants, and doesn't have the confidence in the changeup to throw it often, he can't win with just his fastball.

  2. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  3. High school senior Chasten Whitfield inspires young anglers


    MADEIRA BEACH — The kids lined up single file, snow cones in hand, a procession of sweaty, excited grade-schoolers watching Chasten Whitfield throw a cast net.

    Whitfield, a rising senior at Bradenton Manatee, demonstrates how to throw a cast net at the FishKids tournament in Madeira Beach. She also taught knot tying.
  4. Wreck helps Kyle Busch take control of Monster Cup's ISM 300

    Auto racing

    LOUDON, N.H. — Kyle Busch saw little but billowing white smoke that engulfed the track and blinded enough drivers that it caused a tremendous wreck that notably altered the race running order.

    Kyle Busch celebrates with a burnout after his third victory of th e season that earns a berth in the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs. He also has some fun with Loudon the Lobster.
  5. Why Jake Dotchin hasn't played this preseason


    Turns out, there's a reason why Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin hasn't played at all in the first four preseason games.